Molecular Gastronomy is Overrated

Author and Chef

DAN BARBER is the Chef of Blue Hill, a restaurant in Manhattan's West Village, and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, located within the nonprofit farm and education center, Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture. His opinions on food and agricultural policy have appeared in the New York Times, along with many other publications. Barber has received multiple James Beard awards including Best Chef: New York City (2006) and the country's Outstanding Chef (2009). In 2009 he was named one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people in the world.

To expand on his philosophy of cooking with sustainably grown, local ingredients, Dan has been working with such organizations as the Kellogg Foundation, Slow Food USA and Earth Pledge to minimize the political and intellectual rhetoric around agricultural policies and to instead maximize the appreciation of eating good food. Focusing on the issues of pleasure, taste and regional bounty-and how these imperatives are threatened-Dan helped create the philosophical and practical framework for Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture and continues to help guide it in its mission to create a consciousness about the effects of everyday food choices.

He is author of the book The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food.

  • Transcript


Dan Barber: Well you know I tend to think like this . . . this molecular gastronomy movement is a little overrated. And that’s more around the world than it is in America, although it’s come here in full blast. And most molecular gastronomy being the . . . the fascination with science and manipulation. So for me, I’m really interested in the science of food, especially the science of agriculture. I think it’s a fascinating field, and I don’t think that one can believe in sustainability and . . . and organic agriculture and . . . and be . . . to believe in that stuff you have to be against modern science and technology. That doesn’t make any sense to me. I think you can believe in the most sustainable cuisine and also want to introduce and learn about the most up to date, innovative cooking techniques and agriculture that occurs in the field, you know? I just . . . The chefs that are totally driven by science and manipulation chemicals to get flavors and textures in food strikes me as like sort of boring. And also as like . . . as like very manipulative. And I really love it. There are some people who are doing it great, so I don’t mean to make a blanket statement about it. It’s wrong to do that because there are people who do it with real responsibility, and real intellect, and real art. So . . . And I think that pushes food along and it’s nice. The problem is nobody is . . . Very few chefs are taking that . . . the time. It’s a huge time investment to learn about all that stuff, and the energy, and you know the capital and stuff, and investing that in the farmers that they’re buying from. You know you could really take that time and show . . . introduce farmers to new seeds or to new techniques in . . . You know and that’s all available on the Internet just like all the molecular gastronomy is. So me, I prefer those chefs who are thinking more about the ingredients and the technology that’s going in the field than rather in the kitchen. But yeah, that sounds a little harsh, but I don’t mean it to be. Okay. Recorded on: 2/11/08